Getting Dirty With It, Part 1

I write this mostly because every day in the suburbs without rain, is a day in which I’m thinking about our newly planted gardens.  Specifically, will the ominous gray clouds produce any rain or will I need to drag out the dozens of feet of hoses we have tangled around all sides of our house in order to water the garden out front and our planting out back.

Let’s back up a bit though, shall we, as the fact that I can even type the word “garden” when referring to our yard is a miracle in and of itself.  My only experience with gardening to date had been the occasional Impatiens I potted in the spring when I lived in D.C. and the 3 potted plants that I somehow kept alive in the city.  (And a scramble to somehow repair the damage that Frank did to the trees in our Brooklyn yard when he decided to systematically chew them all to pieces.)  See said destruction below:

We’ve got our bubble machine going here, but you can see all the dead trees in the background. Don’t tell our old landlord.

When we bought this house in the burbs, the grouchy lady in residence hadn’t touched anything this side of 1980.  May I introduce to you the giant yew bush we inherited:

Massive yew bush in the front of our house pretty much up and over the bottom of the windows. Also, it was like 10 ft. deep.

May I also introduce you to our kempt and picturesque backyard vista.  Not.

Our lovely backyard. That’s ALL bamboo.

And this is the view looking back up at the house.

There were 2 rotted railroad ties up against the sliding doors to use as steps down onto the pile of dirt that at one point may have been a patio.

So let’s fast forward two years, a pile of cash (poof, gone) and some lessons learned.  The first thing we did was take out a ton of the trees that made the house invisible when looking at it on Google maps.  For those of you home-owning rookies like us, trees right up in it real estate speaking, aren’t great.

Better… the poor ol’ house can finally breath; not to mention it looks maybe 2 x bigger!

Sayonara, bamboo.  We had our tree guy first cut it all down and then our landscaper came back later and dug up all the roots with a small skid steer type of a thing; heavy equipment was needed.  If you felt inclined to look up ways to mitigate bamboo, you would find some scary stuff, but mostly people telling you not to plant it because it’s so insidious.  We got that memo.  After some research, what we ultimately decided to do was just to dig it all up as best we could and then stay vigilant about chopping/ Round Up-ing any shoots that  spring up.  Another option would have been to spray it with poison, but that’s a lot of poison, and we’re right on some wetlands so not in our plan book. So far so good with the digging and removing approach.  These pictures are pre-dig, post chop.

Oh, and the yew.  Gone.  Even with NOTHING planted, the front looks better, huh?

Naked house.

Thanks to a fire sale of past season plants at a local nursery, we were lucky enough to acquire some simple, but big, boxwoods and hydrangea for the front at crazy low prices.  We were expecting to be stuck with tiny baby plants to meet our budget and we’d have to wait for them to grow into the house.  Score!

This was taken in the fall, but the hydrangea (Little Lamb variety for those who care) are starting to come in now and it’s looking much better than our old friend the yew.

This is the more current view back up to the house.  Thanks to the masterful landscape design of Kristina Gates from Southport Design Works, we now have a patio.  Not that stepping out of our house onto railroad ties that may or may not rot out from under you and may or may not tip over wasn’t an adventure…

This was taken right when the bulbs were coming up, so our Craigslist patio furniture was still in storage, but isn’t this SO much better than the heap of dirt + railroad ties?!

I have a project in mind for those adirondack chairs and the firepit was a present for Mark for our 5th anniversary (wood… get it?).

We also added a sweet walkway in the front, also courtesy of the brilliant Kristina with space on either side for a perennial garden.  There is also a  small strip of land to the right of the driveway that I wanted to design and plant with perennials.

So sweet, right?

These perennial gardens are where I got my gardening groove on.  And yes, I recognize that even saying such a thing makes me extremely uncool and somewhat suburban; or at least uncooler than I was a few years ago before perennial beds got me all warm and fuzzy.  I’ll go into more detail in Part 2, but basically, I had a blast figuring out what plants would work where in these two perennial beds.  Kristina held my hand and gently told me when I might reconsider something and when I was on the right track.  Ultimately, though, I did a lot of googling and started to create a list of plants that 1) I liked, 2) worked in this particular SUNNY location.  (Another perk of the suburbs?  You randomly get garden catalogs in your mailbox; that doesn’t happen in the city… ).  So fast forward through the details (again, see Part 2), and we now have lots of things that need watering when temps are in the 90s.  Did I ever think I’d be into gardening?  Probably not. Count this as another surprise “pro” for my urb/ suburb comparison list.

See the finished products below!

We’ll just have to wait and see how this front bed fills in!

I’m already excited for next spring… in the fall, I plan to pop in a few bulbs in this bed to give it even more color and vibrancy.  I don’t have a “before” picture of this side of the house, but there was also an even more ginormous yew bush here too… so big that when we moved in there was an official letter from the town saying we needed to deal with it because it was a hazard to motorists because it was blocking the driveway!

And if there are any of you interested in the step-by-step approach that I took for the perennial gardens, then pop back in for Suburban Gardening, Part 2.




2 thoughts on “Getting Dirty With It, Part 1

  1. God reading this makes me miss you even more- u always make me smile… Remember my over crowded garden in DC ? Now have a bigger one but still over crowded, but so nice to walk outside, cut some lettuce and make a salad. Will have to send u some pics. Xoxo

    • You got the bug a while ago! I’m so enjoying it… we don’t have any suitable spot for veggies, but that would be SO fun. Maybe this Fall I can come and see you’re garden?! xo

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